Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Porter's liner still a classy crossing

Anything Goes

BMOS Youtheatre

Old Rep, Birmiingham


WITH a hip-swivelling Reno. Blow, Gabriel, Blow being given a spirited airing and a company that is right on top of choreographer Melanie Flint's tap-dancing challenge for the title number, Alan Hackett's production has no option but to be a winner. 

For good measure, when somebody dropped a large hat onto the deck of SS American early on, it was picked up in commendably quick time by a member of the ship's crew. There was never a possibility that people were going to start walking round it and pretending that it wasn't there. This was a bonus. This was professionalism. This was a lesson assimilated early. 

The hip-swiveller is Lauren Neale, a likeable bundle of energy who achieves a believable Americanisation of the many songs that come her way and is reliably backed by her team of Angels. 

She and Isobel Robinson (Hope) are appealing opposites. Where Reno is brash and sexy, Hope has a happy innocence which is suitably shocked by Billy Crocker's masquerade as Snake Eyes, a gentleman who is no better than he need be. 

James Mateo-Salt's youthful features don't help gangster Moonface Martin to shed his cherubic good cheer, but it's a pleasure to believe that he's a nasty piece of work somewhere underneath the surface – even though, in the long history of Anything Goes, Moonface has never been required to live up to his surprising high ranking among America's public enemies. We all know that gun in the violin case is just for show. 

Billy, played by James Reidy with an earnest air and a strong voice, comes across confidently and has a high old time when he briefly disappears behind an expansive set of ginger whiskers. 

Joe Sefton has a commendable shot at Sir Evelyn, English fathead incarnate. This is a difficult act to maintain for a youthful thespian but he tackles it with spirit and he and Lauren Neale shine in their Gypsy in Me duet. 

The central group are well supported by Ellie Price (Mrs Harcourt), Nathan Queeley-Dennis (Elisha Whitney) and Karina Holness (Bonnie), plus the happy passengers, the crew and the two sacrificial Chinamen. 

The show is attractively staged, and the nightclub scene that opens act 2 is particularly well costumed. To 21-05-11.

John Slim 

Meanwhile from the poop deck . . .


Director Alan Hackett celebrates 50 years in amateur showbiz 'on the bridge' of this classic Cole Porter musical which is well performed by the young cast whose ages range from 10 to 18.

 He can feel well pleased with the latest result as the youngsters enthusiastically tackle the story of madcap antics aboard a cruise ship bound from New York to London with a passenger list which includes gangster Moonface Martin, Public Enemy No 13.

 Hackett's voluntary stage career has encompassed acting, directing and committee work, and he actually formed the youtheatre in 1987.

Since then a number of local wannabes have made it to the professional theatre.

 The latest crop of talented youngsters clearly enjoy performing in this show, and there is a marvellous scene just before the interval when a number of the cast tap-dance impressively while singing Anything Goes.

 Top billing goes to Lauren Neale, playing night club singer Reno Sweeny. Her acting and singing are refreshing, and there are fine performances, too, from James Reidy (Billy Crocker), James Mateo-Salt (Moonface Martin), Isobel Robinson (Hope Harcourt), Joe Sefton (Lord Evelyn Oakleigh), while Karina Holness reveals a sparkling stage presence as gangster's mol Bonnie.

 The show includes other hits songs like You're the Top, I Get a Kick out of You, and Blow, Gabriel, Blow.

 Melanie Flint is choreographer and Chris Corcoran musical director of a happy show which runs to 21.05.11

Paul Marston 

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